Full-blown panic mode
October 21, 2014 10:56 PM   Subscribe

Lost job. Without a net. I am SO screwed...

Ok, I'll stick to bullet points. I usually try to post eloquently; I'm not in the mood for that.
- I'm in my early 40s, I don't have a college education. In (Big City) Canada.
- For seven years, up to a year ago, I (finally) had a steady lowish-end sales career...I sort of "fell into" it, but did very well (not financially; below average take-home income - I survived ok. But I was very good at what I did)
- That ended when the company I worked for changed hands and eliminated the sales force.
- I exhausted my unemployment benefits looking for a new position, I worked odd and short term jobs concurrently.
- Just as my unemployment benefit period was ending, I landed a job at a media company (resonably reputable, but restructuring) selling advertising.
- It was very challenging, far harder and different than what I had done before. From scratch, contact/lead generation, then the pitch and sell. I generated many leads, but I struggled with the pitch/sell. Only two months in, I'm fired.
Now lets make matters worse...
- The job was "on subcontract", as in not on the books.
- I am broke, I have zero savings. All I have is a maxed-out ($5k) credit card. I have nothing of worth to sell.
- I have no family (deceased) or any form of emotional support. None. I have acquaintances, no real friends. I am alone in this.
- I have an apartment I can't afford (a remnant from my failed long-term relationship).
- Rent and bills are due in 10 days.
Now then:
I'm not looking for sympathy, no one needs to feel sorry for me. I don't have time for that.
Yes, I'm mad. I'm fucking pissed. My life is one disaster after another, nothing but poor decisions. It's all my fault.
And now it's about to get a lot worse. I feel stupid, I feel like a total failure...I don't know what I've done to deserve this, other than people as incompetent as me get what they deserve I suppose.

I'm worried I'll lose everything and end up in the streets. All my dreams are fading, a loving relationship, a family of my own, a living I can be proud of, retirement -- these things are not going to happen, are they? (what a stupid question...)

I'm sorry for ranting. This all came down 2 hours before I posted. Tomorrow morning, along with LinkedIn and Kijiji/Craigslist, I'm grabbing a fistful of my shitty resumes, pounding on every door and begging for jobs. What else can I do?
posted by Soap D. Spencer to Work & Money (33 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
That is really rough, sorry to hear about your situation. A few ideas: Do you have any spare bedrooms in the apartment you can rent out? Books you can sell on Amazon? Do you have a car? Does taskrabbit operate in your city?
posted by hazyjane at 11:00 PM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

And now it's about to get a lot worse. I feel stupid, I feel like a total failure...I don't know what I've done to deserve this, other than people as incompetent as me get what they deserve I suppose.

The unemployment rate is a political issue precisely because there are a lot of factors individuals really have no control over. You don't mention anything that sounds grossly irresponsible to me. So, one less burden: this isn't all your fault.
posted by phrontist at 11:07 PM on October 21, 2014 [31 favorites]

Look on the gigs section of craigslist. They have short-term unskilled jobs. Consider posting an ad on Craigslist where you offer to walk dogs, run errands, mow grass. Also post the same kind of offer at supermarket or coffee shop.
I once was really broke an offered to be a normal volunteer in a medical study.
posted by bananafish at 11:15 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

This may sound weird but...I bet you could get work dishing tomorrow. It's not a prestige position - far from it I know(if you care about such crap). I worked PT as a bartender at a restaurant for 11 years and saw lots of middle-age folks come through the dish-pit just 'til they could regroup: newly-divorced, bad break with the economy, terminal illness in family, just out of prison. You'd be surprised how far 'actually coming to work, and on time' will get you in the restaurant biz. Bonus points if you're not high. An added benefit is free, discounted, and 'mistake' meals.

In my working life I've cleaned public toilets, mopped floors, tended bar, cashiered, worked retail, worked door-to-door, donated plasma, laid carpet, moved dirt (unskilled construction), and been a senior enterprise architect. There is no work that is 'beneath' you. Take pride in whatever it is you decide to do.
posted by j_curiouser at 11:36 PM on October 21, 2014 [50 favorites]

It may be worth trying peopleperhour.com or elance.com for freelance work? It seems like your previous job has left you with marketable skills in sales and there may be good opportunities on these freelance sites.

In terms of the immediate emergency (10 days), what is your relationship with your landlord like? Would you be able to negotiate a bit of time/breathing space on rent because of your sudden recent job loss? If you are really worried that you are potentially at risk of homelessness, I would find out immediately what state resources (support, training, rent support) are available to people in your situation in your city. I know you've run out of time on unemployment benefit but there are usually resources focused on housing directly targeted at people at risk of homelessness. An outreach worker may be able to do things like find sources of rent support in the short term and help you a place that's less expensive in the long term as well as helping in your job search.
posted by Aravis76 at 11:53 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's good that you're mad but don't get mad at yourself. Blaming yourself is not only incorrect, it's also profoundly unhelpful.

Check with the local social welfare office, with the nearest food bank, with nearby churches, see if they can help you stretch out your resources.
posted by shvaughn at 11:56 PM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

You are in Canada. This is what welfare is for. Not sure what province you are in, but applying for welfare benefits will help you make ends meet until you can pull down some work. No shame in getting it. That IS your safety net, and I'm glad we still live in a country that has one.
posted by salishsea at 12:26 AM on October 22, 2014 [10 favorites]

Some quick responses:
I have no spare room to rent.
Taskrabbit: not in Canada, but we do have Kutoto - I'm on that. I did and do odd jobs. CL too.
And I'm not above dish-washing...Thing is, I have done and am still willing to do these things but it doesn't pay the bills and leads nowhere. I have to find some way, using my very specific sales skill-set and no documented education to speak of, to force my way into steady gainful employment. Bonus points if the gig doesn't make want to blow my head off, but beggars can't be choosers.
I'm ranting again. Too bad I can't get paid for that...
posted by Soap D. Spencer at 12:26 AM on October 22, 2014

"In my working life I've cleaned public toilets, mopped floors, tended bar, cashiered, worked retail, worked door-to-door, donated plasma, laid carpet, moved dirt (unskilled construction), and been a senior enterprise architect. There is no work that is 'beneath' you."

I can honestly say I have done all the above at point or another...
except bar tending and senior enterprise architect.
posted by Soap D. Spencer at 12:31 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do the best you can. You will get through this.
posted by aniola at 12:40 AM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Can you get out of your apartment lease? It may be unpleasant to do so but if you can get rid of that expense which you acknowledge you cannog afford, then you can take some of the heat off. And then move into public housing or a cheaper shared apartment that you can afford.
posted by deathpanels at 12:58 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I guess all I'm suggesting is, 'you may be able to plan and execute in a less-frantic way if you have just enough dough for the food and bills in the next few weeks.' cheers ;-)
posted by j_curiouser at 1:10 AM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

j_curiouser, I believe you are correct...as I've indicated, I'm in panic/super-pissed mode, which kind of folds in on itself.
posted by Soap D. Spencer at 2:07 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

You have a network of acquaintances. Use it.

Contact everyone on linkedin that you have access to and ask them if they have any openings in sales, marketing or lead generation available at their company. Add that you are also interested in contract work (contract work may happen much sooner that a permanent position).

Look up temp agencies. Today call at least 30 temp agencies and schedule appointments to go in and register tomorrow and friday (this could result in work next week). Have as a goal to meet with at least 10 temp agencies in person. If they say that they dont' need to see you, say that you will be nearby anyway, and that you will personally drop off your resume and ask when would be a good time.

Go look up everyone you used to work with at the sales company position (CALL them) and ask them if there any openings at their companies and/or if they need any temporary help. This includes receptionist, admin or data entry work.

Create a poster offering yourself as a dog walker. Go to the local dog park, EVERY coffee shop, poster a 10 block radius. Do the same with cleaning (house cleaning services).

Go into every local restaurant and offer to waitress, cashier or hostess. Have some income, any income, will help.

I suspect if you do all this, you will find something.
posted by zia at 2:49 AM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

To continue with the direction of just getting something to do for a while, and dishwashing being an example of that, it kind of sounds like you maybe could use some time to consider whether you really want to do sales. Maybe you'd like sales training -- something like that.

If you moved into a more appropriate apartment, would you be able to pay the bills in a dishwashing-type job? 5K is not an insurmountable amount of debt and it sounds like you could really use some deep breaths and clarity if you can get past this crisis. You do not sound in love with sales -- I know when you lose your job you're like 'who cares if I love it? I need the damn job.' but you seem to have larger regrets and concerns outside of this immediate thing.

Maybe you can essentially drop out of the rat race for a few months or a year, and think things over?

In any case, good luck and I'm really sorry--that's awful.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:20 AM on October 22, 2014

Something people in panic mode sometimes forget: Debt is not fatal. I gather it's even less fatal in Canada, though you'll need to look into bankruptcy specifics and stuff there if it comes up, but--later. What I mean is, if you can't pay your rent, remember that you are not on the street the day after you can't pay your rent. That takes time for them to do, which gives you some cushion. You may have a similar cushion with other bills--usually electric/gas/etc don't shut off immediately, either. You don't want to keep this apartment, anyway--look into whatever you need to do to move ASAP, whether you're out of the lease or not. It doesn't matter if they come after you for money, later--there's ways to deal with that. Debt is not fatal.

What you need to preserve as long as possible is an address and a phone number for job-search purposes. Phones shut off faster. There may be a service in your area where you can get a free cell phone if you're low-income, we have them here, anyway. If not, look into porting your number into a VOIP service or something that might be cheaper and will provide more stability.

You think you don't have any friends, but if you are in a position this bad, you may be surprised by how many people will turn up to help even if you didn't think you were that close. Make sure everybody you know knows what is happening. Make sure that they know that what you need is, primarily, work of any paying variety. You may need a couch at some point, but you aren't there yet, and even acquaintances can help you find work. Right now is the point where nobody will fault you for being shameless in the self-promotion area.

Call local churches, even if you aren't even vaguely religious, although maybe don't tell them that--usually the office and pastoral staff already know a lot of resources in your area for people in trouble. Make sure you fill out forms for every kind of assistance you might even possibly be eligible for as soon as humanly possible.

Stay angry, stay any emotion that propels forward movement. Despondence is the biggest enemy you have. Find music that keeps you pumped up. Get out of the apartment as often as you can, even if it's just to walk around the block, or jog, or something that gets your heart rate up. For whatever reason, that sort of thing makes a huge difference. You might not need the advice, but in similar situations I have to remind myself to get out of bed every day, shower every day, get dressed every day, in every possible way keep behaving like a functional human being every day, because one day slipping--well, what you need is to maintain momentum.
posted by Sequence at 3:44 AM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Don't turn down paying work just because it doesn't pay enough, unless you know a specific way to spend that time actively pursuing better paying work. Dishwashing pays more than $0.

Advertising is a pretty incestuous business -- did you make any contacts while you were at your last gig? Everyone doesn't automatically know you were fired. If you have anyone you were remotely friendly with from your previous position, reach out to see if they know of any positions. People honestly like helping people, and (more believably, maybe) people love to show off how powerful and connected they are by referring you to open roles and other contacts. Be professional, don't show desperation, triple check your resume, and never bad mouth anyone, yourself included.
posted by telegraph at 3:56 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

First, I will acknowledge how painful it is to go through life with no family. It's so sucky, and I am sorry you're dealing with this without a support system. That makes you very strong and brave in my book. People take it for granted sometimes that there will be people there to cheer you on when life gets hard. A cheering section is important. Let your friends here at Mefi be your cheerleaders. Take good energy wherever you can get it.

The good news is that many, many people have been in your spot right now. They have dug themselves out. Many people have lost everything, multiple times. Myself included.

The bad news is that this road you're on is a rocky one. You're going to have to work very hard and eat shit to get yourself back where you want to be. When I say eat shit, I mean you will have to put up with condescending people, you will have to call places and make a nuisance of yourself, you will have to deal with these asshole people who hold your fate in their hands. To get out of the hole, you're going to have to jettison any shame you have going on right now. Your goal is to replace that shame with pride, so you eat all their shit and say "YUMMY, more please!"

Camp out at your city's Career Center. Their job is to get you a job. The whole function of the place is to find you "gainful" employment. Take every class they offer to pad your resume. Make nice with the people who work there, use every resource they offer. Make sure the people that work there know you are there with a plan and a purpose, dress nicely. Stand out, in a good way. Stay positive, negativity REEKS. No time for that.

I would also call your landlord immediately, and tell them your situation~ the longer you wait, the worse it will be (this is one of the mistakes people make, waiting on things due to fear)...offer to do work, whatever they need, anything, to stave off an eviction. If you've been a good tenant, they should work with you. If they say no, BEG. Put them on the spot. Most people cave when put on the spot. Now is no time for feeling bad about that. Ask if there are any efficiency apartments you could move into. Ask if they know any other landlords they could refer you to "just in case".

Panicking will get you nowhere. Think of yourself as a business. You are Soap D. Spencer Inc. and you are in the middle of restructuring the company. Sacrifices will be made, dignity will take a backseat for a minute, but you will get through this. Your goal is to come back bigger, better, faster, stronger and smarter. People do it every single minute of the day, and so can you.

See? You're smarter already, taking all this good advice from wise people. Take your eeny, tiny baby steps, inch by inch. Ride the wave. This is no time for paralyzing fear and sadness, you can reflect on all that and collapse with stress later. You may be down right now, but you're not out.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 6:53 AM on October 22, 2014 [7 favorites]

You're in Canada, I'm not, so I don't know what options are available there. I can just suggest what I'd tell someone - indeed, have told many someones, in similar circumstances here.

- Food bank
- Social services office (primarily food stamps here - rarely cash)
- Numerous other, smaller local organizations - community action and the like - that can often help with heat, electric, etc.

This is what those are there for - a safety net. Unfortunately, these days, it's set up so a lot of us spend most of our time tangled in it, unable to climb out.

And seriously... take whatever job you can get at the moment, even if you feel it won't pay "enough", for a couple reasons:
- it'll pay some. I know lots of people living on one, or two, and even one who juggles three, minimum wage jobs. It'd at least allow you to juggle, instead of dropping the balls all at once.
- You're much more hire-able with SOME job, regardless of what it is, then NO regular job.
- It'll give you something to do. Spending all day, every day, job hunting is draining, demoralizing, and often counter-productive... and chances are, you're not able to make yourself put in 40 hours per week job-hunting anyways.

If the apartment is unaffordable, perhaps it's time to consider a different one?
posted by stormyteal at 6:58 AM on October 22, 2014

OH. And again, Canada, so I don't know what is available there... but ratracerebellion would likely to be good place to start for this other thing I'll suggest...

There are a LOT of work from home sales jobs. I routinely ignore these, because I hate sales... too much stress and anxiety for me, and there are a lot of people that feel that way. But if you're good at it... there might be some good fits out there for you. And there's not as much competition for those jobs as there is for straight customer service.
posted by stormyteal at 7:01 AM on October 22, 2014

First, go down to social services and get welfare. You paid into, you are entitled and this is just a short-term blip before you are back to paying into it.

Look into going to school. Yes, a job is ideal but school might lead to something. For one thing, you can get OSAP that will pay the bills and give you a chance to logically think out what you want to do with the rest of your life. Another route to school is Second Career. (Go in person to EI to ask, their website is terrible) Based on what you wrote you are eligible for it and it will pay the tuition. Are there any businesses you have dreamed about opening?

Keep applying for jobs but also consider going elsewhere in Canada for work too. Don't worry about not being able to retire, a lot of lower-income people actually found retirement boosted their standard of living because of Canada's generous retirement system (and it is very stable, so it will be around in 40 years). You will have other relationships and jobs. Stay positive (I know, it is hard!). Go down to the library and see what events are happening and go to them so you aren't just spending all your time looking for work. Look at services offered for New Canadians - a lot of them are actually available to all Canadians and they offer things like free resume printing/critiquing. If they can't help you, ask for the contact number of two agencies that can. Ask the public librarians too. There are tonnes of little, targeted programmes out there and very little awareness of them.

You can do this. I believe in you!
posted by saucysault at 7:10 AM on October 22, 2014

Also, Polling firms are starting to ramp up hiring in the face of the election. A lot are based in Toronto; a good place to send targeted resumes and a good job that ties in with your existing skill sets.
posted by saucysault at 7:16 AM on October 22, 2014

This may not hold true in every friend circle but...if I knew that a buddy of mine from a few years back was about to be on the streets, I would certainly let him couch-surf for a week or two. If you need to put your stuff in storage (or Craigslist) and humbly ask even acquaintances or work friends for a few days here or there, I'm guessing you will find SOMEONE willing to do it. Even if it means camping out in a living room or unfinished basement.

And yes, welfare is embarassing, but like everyone else here is saying, it's social security you've been paying into. Use it when you have to - consider it the same as going to the hospital with a broken leg. You just go, use the service, and let it heal. Don't abuse the system obviously, but it's there for a reason.
posted by aggyface at 7:49 AM on October 22, 2014

I don't know how car sales work in Canada, but in the US 7 years sales experience and a presumably clean criminal record would get you a job selling cars damn quick. It's generally commission only, but they tend to pay weekly / bi weekly so you'll see cash flow fairly quickly.
posted by COD at 8:29 AM on October 22, 2014

First off, my heart goes out to you. Off course this isn't your fault and it is normal to blame yourself. This could happen to anyone and life sure sucks sometimes!

If you are religious, I would also reach out to a local church or religious organization. They can help with the little things that can make a big difference. At the very least, there are free food event for people just like you, they aren't all soup kitchens full of homeless people but people who have run out of money at the end of the month. Nothing against homeless people!

Have you thought about Air BnB? I know it may be quasi legal depending on your rental situation but it desperate times, right? If you can sleep in your car or couch surf, then you can make a few hundred bucks by renting out your apartment.
posted by Gor-ella at 8:30 AM on October 22, 2014

Can you spin your sales experience into a retail management position? Places are gearing up for holidays right now and even if you have to cobble together 2 part time retail positions, I would imagine one of them will quickly move you into a key holder/part time/assistant manager position. I'd hit the mall with a stack of resumes this afternoon and I think you'd find something within a week at most.
posted by hollygoheavy at 8:56 AM on October 22, 2014

Lots of places are gearing up for the holidays, score a number of gigs. I'd work 2 jobs if I had to.

You can go to social services in your province and see if you can get food aid, housing aid, welfare (?)

Perhaps you can let go of your apartment and move in with a relative for awhile.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:14 AM on October 22, 2014

Look into tenant rights in your jurisdiction. There may be a legal process already in place to help deal with tenants who cannot afford to pay their rent. Where I live it is almost impossible to get a tenant evicted, unless they're damaging the unit severely or doing something illegal in the unit. So figure out how hard it would be for your landlord to kick you to the curb. You're not homeless until that actually happens.

Then look for a cheaper housing solution. I'm willing to bet your landlord would happily let you break your lease if they know you won't be able to pay the rent.

I find that in "panic mode" it is useful to maintain a list or spreadsheets of expenses, broken up by category. E.g., how much exactly did you spend on toilet paper this month? Start breaking your problem into small, manageable chunks. Don't panic about being broke/not paying bills on time, since you know that you're going to have to be running on empty for a while. Just figure out the numbers first, then prioritize your expenses. Utilities are probably #1, then rent, then everything else. Worry about the debt later.
posted by deathpanels at 9:18 AM on October 22, 2014

Get in at a jewelry store where you can sell engagement rings on commission to guys who are going to propose this Christmas. Quit after Valentine's Day.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 9:46 AM on October 22, 2014

It sounds to me as if a good part of the problem here is that you're blindered about what kinds of work you can/must do for the long-ish term. (I'm not talking about washing dishes to make ends meet, I'm talking about your career.)

That has to be the first thing that changes.

Just because you stumbled into a niche that works for your skill set and education doesn't mean that you need to find an exact analog in your next job. You probably never will again, from the sounds of it.

Use this as an opportunity to think divergently about what you can do with the very specific skills you've mastered and apply those to different contexts. Maybe it's not sales. Maybe you find work at a not-for-profit. No matter what, you'll have to start expanding your view of what you *could* do before you start to see ways out of your situation.

[I'm also a big advocate of doing stop-gap work like dishwashing or bartending until you start to put together a longer-term solution. It might not make ends meet, but it will keep you from relying solely on credit.]
posted by yellowcandy at 10:45 AM on October 22, 2014

We used to have manufacturing plants in most cities here in the US where people without an extended formal education but with good skills and enough employment background to show them to be reliable could get an entry-level job and then work their way into a good, long-term, decent-paying job. Unfortunately, with the outsourcing of so many manufacturing jobs and plants to China and other places, our cities no longer have the opportunities they used to have. It's a hard and bitter truth that people like you - and many, many others - end up fighting to figure out a way to survive when they're perfectly good employees and hard workers, but there are so few jobs available.

You didn't do anything wrong. You've been a salesperson, and the world needs salespersons. A few weeks working at selling an entirely new product/service just isn't enough to get into the swing of it - you know that to be true, so don't consider the recent job loss as a personal failure. I think you need to be trained into something new - maybe IT or selling Verizon phones or something (can you tell I spent all day in the Verizon store yesterday? - My God, that place is a madhouse!) But I also know howdifficult it is when you're at zero or nearly so - everyone needs the last $50 you have.

But - people find a way to get through this story every day and you can, too. All good advice is above - I'd add only to SMILE and look self-assured, confident, reliable, sincere, comfortable and relaxed at everybody - smile until your jaws ache - save the worry and fretting for when you're alone. If you project a pleasant, assured person people will want to know you better.

A good friend many years ago stuck the phrase, "think of it as an adventure" in my head and that simple thought has pulled me through Hades and back a few times. You may use it too if you like.

Best wishes - hang in there.
posted by aryma at 11:04 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thanks to everyone for the responses. Very good ideas here; many were on my emergency to-do list already but it's still good to hear re-affirmation.
I'm not even close to giving up, and I am very aware panicking isn't going to help.
It's like a village after a bombing: distress and chaos and the air-raid horn is still sounding.
I'm at the point where I need to gather the survivors and lead them to safety...then bury the dead and start rebuilding.
Through sheer force of will I'll get though this.

Thanks again.
posted by Soap D. Spencer at 11:26 PM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Lots of great advice here; overcome your panic (as you are working on), and follow it. You are clearly too smart, too resourceful, and too motivated to fail (missing any one of those three could be a killer, but fortunately...!).

Tough days ahead, but you'll come through on the other side. It will get better, as they say.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:37 AM on October 23, 2014

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